The call came into my office at ten in the morning from the owner's secretary. "Miss Dumont would like to see you in her office before you leave for the day. Shall I tell her that you will be there? Three o'clock is the time she suggested."
"Yes I will come up. What is this in reference to?"
"She didn't say. I will inform her of your decision to be present."
I worked for a fairly large privately owned corporation. Miss Dumont had taken over from her father six months ago. I liked her father and we had got along great, he liking me for my attention to my job. I rarely saw her and more rarely had a conversation with her, even though I had been introduced and had been bade to address her by her given name. I found the daughter too full of herself after she became head of the corporation. I had no idea of her age, just that she must be short of thirty.
I was thirty-one and had worked here for the past five years. I could be described as a loner. Many times I had been approached with interest by some of the women I worked with. Women did not hold that much of an attraction for me at the present time, although I was aware of them. A former situation before arriving here had determined my mind-set. I had overheard a conversation about myself that I was a hunk, but that I must be gay for I never dated and kept to myself.
I managed the finance department, only having the CFO above me in the corporate hierarchy. I lived by myself in a small condo near the corporation headquarters and most usually walked to work. For recreation I worked out at a gym and was an avid reader, spending much of my spare time in the library. I also watched college football in the fall and basketball in the winter months. One weekend a month I took three days and visited my family. This never varied.
Was I lonely? Of course I was. I had at one time been married, but had found my wife in the arms of another man while partying. This was something I couldn't accept so I had divorced her and moved here more than three hundred miles away. My wife and I still saw each other for we had two children together, hence the reason for the long weekends. Susan, my wife, had implored me to forgive her and reconcile, but at the time I was hurt and stubborn and refused. She retaliated by flaunting her lovers before me and didn't stop until I warned her that she could lose custody of the children by such actions.
This happened during the first year after the breakup and after the warning I saw no evidence that she was other than a good mother. She never said anymore about wanting to get back with me, knowing she had lost all chances of reconciliation. We worked together making sure the kids were as happy as could be under these circumstances. When I went to visit, I stayed with her and the children. We acted just as a normal family did for the short period of time I was with them--except I never went to her bed.
I never asked them to visit me, but I did spend the weekend every month and of course my vacations. Over time the children adjusted to this arrangement and I suppose on some level we all had a measure of happiness. It certainly could have been better. Susan and I got beyond wanting to hurt each other. I knew she dated on occasion, and once in awhile I would call an escort service when I felt the need for female companionship. I made no commitments and I never planned to make any.
"Barry Duncan, go right into Miss Dumont's office. She is expecting you." I opened the door and went in. I knew Miss Dumont's name was Tyne, but I kept this on a formal level.
She was standing. She had on a woman's business suit and white blouse. I would say she was five-foot-six, maybe a little less if she had flats on. She was full busted and her hair, a dark brown, was cut to a pageboy style. "Barry, thank you for meeting me. I have some questions for you. I would like to have you answer them truthfully and then I will explain. Please have a seat."
I waited for her to cross to her desk and be seated before I sat facing her. "I have looked into your personnel records. That tells me you are single and you have an address near here. Is there a woman in your life?"
"I know I shouldn't ask, but are you gay? You are a handsome man. You are tall and trim and keep yourself well."
"No I am not gay. I just have no interest in women at the moment."
"That is good. Good for me, I mean. My father has told me some good things about you and of course there are those around here that make comments. If I explain something and it comes to nothing, would what I have to say be kept in confidence?"
"Okay, I'll trust you. What I would like to do is buy your name for the next three years. It would mean that we would have to go before a justice and be married. On paper only, mind you, except for one time we would have to come together to consummate the union to make it all legal. I have been promised some money from my grandmother. I must be married and stay married for a set amount of time. Those are the conditions to claim it.
"My first priority has been to take over the corporation from my father, which I have done. My grandmother, though, has been upset that I haven't married before this. It is a considerable amount of money and although I'm considered well off, I want to make her happy. She doesn't have long to live and she claims she may not last three more years. In fairness to her, I would stay married for the three years as required. Would this be something you could consider?"
"I might consider it, but I would want several things spelled out. Where would I be living? With you or do I keep my own place? How much am I expected to appear at your side? I am considered a loner and need my own space. Also I am committed one weekend a month for personal business with some of my relatives."
"I think this could all be worked out. I have lived in my parents' home all of my life and for the last few years have had my own wing. You would be living in their wing as they have moved south to a warmer climate. There are two bedrooms, a kitchen and a sitting room in each wing. Your apartment is bigger than the condo that you live in now. There is a large common area that we would share and where I entertain. I think I will say you are leasing it from me and there is no reason to say we are married. Except before my grandmother, of course.
"I will keep the times we have to appear together to as small a number as possible. We would be expected to be seen together sometimes and of course, we would often be with my grandmother together. I guess we should go out a few times on dates before we get married. Again this is for my grandmother to see.
"Now as far as compensation, I will pay you $100,000 each of the three years we are married. I will give you a $100,000 bonus if you do this and don't complain or try to get out of the marriage after the ceremony is performed. I can't think of any reason you would want to under this arrangement."
"I can." Tyne stared at me. I think she thought flashing that much money in front of me would get me to agree to any and everything. "I will not be humiliated in any way. By this I mean if it becomes known we are husband and wife, you will act as my loving spouse in any public situation. If you find yourself needing a companion other than me, you will not flaunt him in front of me and I will extend the same consideration.
"If you find yourself in love with someone, and that could happen, I come first in the eyes of everyone, including your grandmother and your folks. I will not be the butt of anyone's jokes. If you do, then I will do my damnedest to see you lose this considerable amount of money you say you are working for. I would even give back what you have already paid me. Is all of this clear?"
"You are serious, aren't you?"
"Yes, but as long as we are honest about this arrangement, there shouldn't be a problem. How much time before you must be married?"
"I have five weeks."
"That's not long so I guess we better get started. Tyne Dumont, may I have a dinner date with you this evening?"
Tyne studied me. "Then you are agreeing to everything we have discussed?"
"Why not? I'm soon to be your husband. We will have to trust each other. I'll pick you up a seven-thirty for cocktails. Now if you will excuse me, I have just a little more paperwork to do to finish the day." I turned and opened the door. I glanced back at my future wife. She looked as if she didn't know if she had done the correct thing or not.
We had a very nice evening. It was a first date with some uncertainties, but overall it was fun for both of us. We were fairly close while dancing, but I didn't kiss her when I returned her to her door. She was a lovely lady. I sent her flowers the next day to be delivered to her office. It wouldn't take long before a lot of people would know I was dating my boss.
Two days later I was asked to go with her to meet her grandmother. Talk about lovely ladies, this one stole my heart. I knew if this marriage with Tyne went down in flames, I had at least met someone that I could love and respect as a friend. Tyne was amazed at how well I got along with the old lady.
Again I dated Tyne on the weekend and we ended the evening with her showing me the quarters I would be living in. "My quarters are almost identical in the other wing. Dad planned it that way. By the way, I called him and told of our dating. He was very pleased."
"I do like your father very much. I have never met your mother, but we will probably meet at our wedding."
"Getting comfortable with the idea?"
"Yes as much as you, I assume. It is a big step for both of us. I must remind you that I will be away next weekend, Friday through Sunday."
"Where does your family live?"
"Quite a distance from here. I have to fly. I will be back on Monday and we can finalize our wedding plans. Will we be going on a honeymoon?"
"One week, that is all. Barry, do you expect to move out of the position you hold and are you willing to forego the next step up?"
"I really would prefer to stay where I am. I know I can do Pete's job as CFO, but that would mean more traveling and more involvement in policy making for the corporation. I don't think I want to do that at this time."
"You aren't too demanding in your role as my husband-to-be. Are you going to be satisfied staying where you are then?"
"Yes, for the three years I will."
"What are you going to do with the money I'm paying you? You haven't said how much of a consideration it is in your agreeing to all of this."
"I'll invest it, I think. You haven't said, but you will be taking care of all the household expenses. I probably will be buying a new car for myself. That will be my only large expenditure. Let me ask you what you are going to do with the money you get when we are married as your grandmother wishes?"
"I haven't thought about it. Gram said she was giving it to charity if I didn't come through. That seems like such a waste."
"Let me get this straight. You are rich already and yet you see more money out there and to keep some needy people from having it, you are willing to spend $400,000 to get it."
"That sounds terrible to put it that way. I could give some to charity as well as Gram, you know."
"Yes, but will you?"
"Barry, I think you better leave. I'll see you tomorrow." I could see that I had touched a nerve in Tyne's thinking and she was displeased. I did send flowers again. She would probably take it as an apology, but it wasn't--I was just keeping up the charade of loving suitor.
Midweek I received a note from the grandmother asking me to come visit Thursday evening. It was more of a command than request. I complied.
A maid answered my knock and after announcing me said she was leaving. I found my way to the older lady's sitting room as directed. "Sit down young man. It was nice of you to come. How are you getting along with my granddaughter? You know I have always been very close to Tyne. I have noticed something strange about her lately. She doesn't look me in the eye like she used to. I'm sure it has something to do with you. Would you tell me what is going on?"
I didn't want to answer. She continued, "It is about the money I promised to leave her, isn't it?"
"You will have to ask her. There are some things that we have talked about I have promised not to reveal. I'm sorry."
"Okay, I think that answers my question. Now I want to know some things about you. When are you going to tell her that you are divorced and have two children? When will you tell her you also stay with your ex-wife in her house three days a month?"
"You have been checking up on me. I wasn't going to tell her anything. I have truthfully answered every question Tyne has asked me. She just hasn't asked the correct ones. I did sidestep where I go, but I did say I had to fly. She could easily find out where I go the same as you have. You evidently have found out much more. As to when I'm going to tell her about my family, I don't plan to tell her anything. I don't see that it will interfere with Tyne's and my life at all. She has agreed that I will have the one weekend a month free."
The lovely old lady was looking intently at me and I had to explain. "I love my children dearly and I still regard my ex-wife with affection. I can't live with her and I'm not ever going to be intimate with her. The way I have things set up, my kids have as much of a stable family as I can give them. Susan knows someday I may marry, but I have also promised that I won't change what she and I have agreed to."
"Your wife hurt you pretty severely, I take it."
"Yes, she about ripped the heart out of me. She made it worse by compounding the situation when I wouldn't come around to a reconciliation. My family isn't any great expense to me for Susan has money in her own right. I only spend on my kids and then only when Susan informs me they need something. Or I gift them with something I'd like them to have. She makes sure that they know it is from me. Susan is the one that screwed up and she is willing and able to pay for her mistakes."
"So is Tyne going to make you happy? She is strong-willed, you know."
"I know. I don't know if she will make me happy, but I am willing to give it a try. She is a lovely person. Who knows, she may be the one I have been searching for."
"I like you Barry. You know Tyne was going to get my money whether she married or not. What I told her was just to get her going on the road to happiness with a man by her side. I worked too hard just to give my savings to some people I don't know and cut out my own blood. Now that is a confidence I'm asking you to keep. So you just go along with Tyne and I will see that you come out better than just what she is offering."
Gram changed course. "Do you play chess? I bet you do. You look like the type. I bet you a kiss I can beat you." I did beat her, but it was close. She got her kiss. As I was leaving she said, "You know my doctor says I'm as healthy as a horse and tells me I'm good for another ten or more years. I expect to have many more evenings with you like this."
I debated telling Susan that I was getting married. In the end I told her as I was leaving to come home. She took it well, not asking for details and reluctantly offering congratulations. I asked her to tell the children and that I would be back to see them the same time every month. This had not changed. I did leave my new address and said she could contact me if needed, but only in an emergency.
Saturday, Tyne and I were married before a justice of the peace. Gram was the only member of the family who was there as her folks were busy. The justice's wife was the other witness. I booked a condo in Florida for our honeymoon.
It was two days before Tyne said we should consummate our vows. It was nothing special for either of us. We got it over and were now married in the eyes of both the law and God. I spent a lot of time on the beach and the last day before going north, Tyne joined me and we held hands.
"You know we are going to be together for three years. We are going to have to act like we are married and happy. I know you feel as if I bought you and as for me, I feel funny paying for a husband. You have to admit this was a damned expensive way to get my way with you." This struck us both funny and we laughed. We slept in the same room, but I wasn't invited into her bed. I didn't push for it. After all I was paid only to be her husband, not her lover.
When we got back to her home--mine now, we went to our respective apartments in the different wings. There was an envelope on my dresser containing a check for $100,000. I rang her number shortly after I saw her lights go out across the way. "Thank you Tyne. Have a good night."
Tyne kept her maiden name rather than have it changed to Duncan. I didn't mind. For a short time Miss Dumont and Barry Duncan's names generated some rumors. It was explained away as her needing an escort on occasion and in return, she made the extra wing available for me to lease. The rumor soon died away.
Gram Dumont saw more of me than her granddaughter did outside our work environment. At least once a week we played chess and sometimes I joined her for dinner. The agreement and terms that Tyne and I had slowly came out. Not from me telling about them, but through deduction made by this sharp old lady.
On the first anniversary of our agreement, Tyne invited me into the wing that held her apartment. Consuming a magnum of wine together, we ended up in her bed. I never was much of a wine aficionado and rarely drank it. Needless to say, I consumed the alcohol--I remember that. The rest was a blur and I came awake in the morning sometime after Tyne had left. I lay there lonely, angry and feeling cheated. I swore then--never again! I felt even worse when I returned to my apartment, finding a check on the dresser of $100,000 for the second installment.
I knew Susan's much younger sister, Shannon, and I had met her several times before my wife and I were divorced. When I went on my monthly visit, it was announced that Shannon had moved in with Susan and my two children. Shannon was California beautiful and had just completed a course in accounting at college.
Shannon was still there when I made the next monthly visit and had made no effort to secure employment. My two kids, Mary twelve, and Mark ten, adored her. I had made a habit of ignoring how Susan appeared for the last six years. This time I looked at her and could see she was appearing sickly. "Susan, you are not well, are you? Is that the reason Shannon is here?"
She nodded. "Barry, I am dying. I have only a few months to live. I'm glad you noticed for this makes it easier for us to plan for the children's future. I know you are married now and I'm hoping you will take the kids with you. Shannon has been a godsend, but she should be able to get on with her life. There will be money when I die and if you can't take Mark and Mary, she has promised to mother them for a few years.
"I know you love them so if you can't take them, would you find a place near where you live so you can see them as much or more than you do now?"
"I'll start looking and come up with something. Susan, would you forgive me for being so harsh on you? I don't want you to die. I never wanted that."
"I know that and there is nothing to forgive. I was wrong. I made a mistake and kept on making them. When you threatened to take the kids away from me, I knew just how foolish I had been. These last few years I have loved you and have looked forward to you coming every month. If I had only loved you before as much as I do now, we would have been together all of this time. No, don't you ask me for forgiveness, it is me that needs to be forgiven."
We slept together that night although not intimate, and I went home Sunday the same as usual. I promised to return the following month. During the week I had to talk to someone and Gram Dumont listened to me as I explained what was happening. "Got yourself in a little bind, haven't you? What will Tyne say to all of this when she finds out? More importantly, what will she do?"
"I have no idea, but what can she do? Of course you can tell her that you are going to leave your money to her anyway and she will undoubtedly divorce me. That probably would be the best way to resolve this."
"Is that what you want? Barry, you have never told me what your plans were after the three years were up. That is the agreement isn't it?"
"Yes, that was the agreement. The minute she has the money our agreement ends."
"Again, is that what you want?"
I didn't answer the question directly. "I had no idea that Susan was going to get sick or is going to die so soon. I thought when Tyne had her money, I then would tell her all and at that time let her know I had a daughter fourteen and a son twelve. At that time I would tell her that I did have feelings for her and ask her to let me court her as a man should--a free man, if you will."
"You do have feelings for her right now, don't you? Why are you waiting? Why don't you assert yourself? Maybe she has feelings for you as well. Personally I can't think of a person I would rather have for a grandson than you."
"I wish you were younger. I would divorce Tyne and marry you."
"Too old and it isn't going to happen, so why don't you start romancing the one you are married to? We will work on this problem of your children together and I'm sure we will come up with something."
I made the flight as usual, making no excuses to Tyne. Susan's health had continued to deteriorate much more rapidly in just the one month since I had seen her. Shannon and I talked about what I was going to do. I said I was looking into purchasing a small house, but couldn't move into it for six weeks. I said I did know of a dear old lady that would put the kids and her up temporarily. The doctors thought that Susan would live beyond the six weeks, so we weren't too worried.
At the family conference I was surprised at how well the kids took their mother's impending death. This I suppose was due to the fact that their aunt was going to be with them and some because they would be where I would be near them all of the time. It was a sad time, but the kids warmed to me when they could see that I had loved their mother all along and was going to miss her as much as they did.
I returned on Sunday early enough to take Tyne out to dinner. I put off explaining about my having a family. I would have, but I couldn't figure out how to broach the subject. When we returned home, I entered the common area with my wife. Usually I left her at the door and went around to my entrance. "Tyne, I had a wonderful time with you tonight. May I kiss you before I leave?"
"If you wish, Barry. It has been more than a year and a half since we made our agreement. I've often wondered if you regretted becoming my husband."
"No, I have no regrets. There are times when it is inconvenient and degrading. Sometimes I wish we acted more like husband and wife. That is the reason for my asking for a kiss."
"I suppose you shouldn't have to have a reason to kiss me. You may kiss me and if you feel like it anytime when we are alone, it is fine with me. Just a thought to leave you with, Gram should do with her money what she wants. However, I am into this pact of ours and want to see it to a finish. One other thing, I notice you go to see Gram at least once a week. She looks forward to your coming, so would you please continue to visit her? I know you aren't really anything to her, but I like to see her happy and you seem to do that for her."
The kiss we had was short and I didn't hold her when she pulled away. She looked into my eyes and then quickly kissed me again and left me standing alone. I hesitated and then I opened the door to my own wing. Something happened tonight. I suppose time would tell me if it was a significant change.
Tyne called me from her office in the morning. "Barry, I have to go out of town for three weeks." I was surprised at her calling me directly. Usually any call from her came through her secretary. "I just thought I would inform you if you didn't see me either at the house or here." She paused so long I began to wonder if we were still connected.
"I'm sorry. I just wanted to thank you for last evening. I'll see you when I return. Bye."